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2011 NCAA College Football Week Two Preview

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno
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As you might expect this time of year, there are not a lot of marquee games and only one matchup between top 25 teams (#3 Alabama vs. #23 Penn State). But there are still a lot of intriguing matchups that will start to tell us who are contenders and who are pretenders. Here’s a look:

#1 Oklahoma bye

The top-ranked Sooners rolled over Tulsa last week, 47-14. They now have an off week to prepare for next week’s battle at #5 Florida State

Northwestern State at #2 Louisiana State

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 8:00 pm ET on ESPN3]

The Tigers will still be without suspended QB Jordan Jefferson, but certainly shouldn’t need him to get past this week’s FCS opponent. LSU is riding an NCAA-best 34-game non-conference winning streak, including 31 in a row at home.

#3 Alabama at #23 Penn State

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on ABC]

One of this week’s top games features two of college football’s most prestigious schools. Both teams rolled to easy wins over weak opponents last week, but both are still struggling somewhat to find an offensive identity.  Penn State coach Joe Paterno and Alabama coach Nick Saban have both said they plan to use two different quarterbacks. Last year, the Tide rolled the Nittany Lions, 24-3, in Tuscaloosa, so shifting the game to Happy Valley certainly works in Penn State’s favor. But will the crowd be a big enough factor to overcome a stingy Alabama defense that gave up just 90 total yards last week in a win against Kent State?

#4 Boise State bye

The Broncos have a week off to recover from their big win over Georgia. They will get back into action next Friday at Toledo.

Charleston Southern at #5 Florida State

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 6:00 pm ET on ESPN3]

After shutting out Louisiana-Monroe last week, 34-0, the Seminoles’ biggest challenge this week is really not looking ahead to next week’s matchup with Oklahoma. Charleston Southern lost their season opener, 62-0, to Central Florida. So, unless a very different team shows up this week, this game could get ugly early.

#6 Stanford at Duke

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on ESPNU]

After a sub-par (by his standards) outing last week, Cardinal junior QB Andrew Luck will take his Heisman campaign to the North Carolina state to take on Duke. The Blue Devils are looking for a big upset here and could really use any positive signs after opening their season with a 23-21 loss to FCS school Richmond.

#7 Texas A&M bye

The Aggies are off this week and will get back into action next week vs. Idaho. But their biggest opponent in the immediate future looks to be Baylor. In a courtroom.

Oregon State at #8 Wisconsin

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 12:00 pm ET on ESPN]

The Beavers suffered a crushing 29-28 overtime loss last week to FCS school Sacramento State. Things certainly don’t get easier this week as they head to Camp Randall Stadium. While much of the focus will be on new Badgers QB Russell Wilson, look for a strong running game from both teams. Oregon State RB Malcolm Agnew had three touchdowns last week and leads the nation in rushing with 223 yards, while Wisconsin RB Montee Ball had 130 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in the Badgers’ week one win vs. UNLV.

Arizona at #9 Oklahoma State

[Thursday, Sep. 8 at 8:00 pm ET on ESPN]

This is a rematch of last year’s Alamo Bowl, a 36-10 Oklahoma State victory. Arizona is going into this game shorthanded, as top receiver Juron Criner will reportedly miss the game due to an undisclosed illness. Additionally, Arizona’s top CB, Jonathan McKnight, tore his ACL in preseason practice. His replacement, sophomore Shaquille Richardson, struggled mightily last weekend against Northern Arizona and will need a much better game against returning Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon if the Wildcats are to slow down OSU’s high-powered offense.

Fresno State at #10 Nebraska

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 7:00 pm ET on Big Ten Network]

Look for another big rushing day for Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez, since he appears to be healthy again after an ankle injury hobbled him much of last season. On the other side, expect an equal amount of running from Bulldogs QB Derek Carr, although he may be running for his life. Fresno State is breaking in four new starters on the offensive line and will be going against arguably the best defensive front four in football, including pre-season All-American DT Jared Crick.

#11 Virginia Tech at East Carolina

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on FSN]

The Hokies’ defense was stout last week against Appalachian State, forcing four turnovers and allowing just 61 yards in the first half (starters were on the sideline for most of the second). But they’ll face a stiffer challenge this week with East Carolina’s up-tempo offense.

#12 South Carolina at Georgia

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 4:30 pm ET on ESPN]

Gamecocks on-again/off-again quarterback Stephen Garcia should be under center after coming off the bench last week to lead a come-from-behind win over East Carolina. The Bulldogs are coming off a disappointing 35-21 loss to fourth-ranked Boise State. The seat under Georgia coach Mark Richt could start getting pretty warm if the Bulldogs start off 0-2.

Nevada at #13 Oregon

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on FX]

The Ducks’ chances for a second-straight appearance in the national championship game were detoured by last week’s 40-27 loss to LSU.  Oregon will try to get back on track this week hosting Nevada. This is the season-opener for the Wolfpack, who finished 13-1 a year ago ,but must find a replacement for four-year starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

New Mexico at #14 Arkansas

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 7:00 pm ET on ESPNU]

The Lobos put up just 10 points and fumbled six times in their season-opening loss to Colorado State. Don’t look for a lot of improvement against an Arkansas defense that gave up just 163 yards and 7 points to Missouri State in week 1.

Toledo at #15 Ohio State

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 12:00 pm ET on Big Ten Network]

Ohio State RB Jordan Hall and CB Travis Howard will be back on the field after serving a one-game suspension. Although Toledo offers a step up in completion from the Buckeyes’ opening week opponent (Akron, which lost 42-0), Ohio State has not lost to an in-state opponent in 90 years. Toledo certainly isn’t afraid to take on the big boys, coming into the Horseshoe this Saturday before hosting #4 Boise State next week.

#16 Mississippi State at Auburn

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 12:21 pm ET on SEC Network/ESPN3]

The defending national champions needed a late rally and a perfectly-executed onside kick last weekend to get past Utah State. They will need a much stronger effort, particularly on defense, if they want to earn their fourth straight victory over Mississippi State. The Bulldogs rolled up a school-record 645 total yards last week vs. Memphis.

Florida Atlantic at #17 Michigan State

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 12:00 pm ET on ESPN2]

Michigan State survived a sub-par opener against Youngstown State, and now have another week to try to work out the kinks against an overmatched opponent. The Owls managed just three points and 137 yards of total offense in their season-opening loss at Florida.  This is the second of five straight road games for the Owls.

Alabama-Birmingham at #18 Florida

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN3]

As good as the Gators’ defense was last week (137 yards and 3 points allowed), the offense was nearly as good, rolling up 468 total yards. RB Chris Rainey became just the third player since 1996 to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game. This is the season opener for UAB, which is trying to improve on last year’s 4-8 mark. A night game at the Swamp probably isn’t the best place to start that rebuilding effort.

Norfolk State at #19 West Virginia

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 1:00 pm ET on ESPN3]

Although heavy storms hampered West Virginia’s running game (and eventually the game, which was called due to lightning early in the fourth quarter), the Mountaineers will look to improve on a disappointing 1.6 yard per carry average from last week. Although head coach Dana Holgorsen’s wide-open offense is pass-heavy, it needs a solid running threat to keep the gaps in defenses there for his receivers. Look for the Mountaineers’ offense to get on track and post some big numbers this week.

#20 Baylor bye

Coming off their upset of TCU, the Bears now have a week off to prepare their lawsuit against Texas A&M.

#21 Missouri at Arizona State

[Friday, Sep. 9 at 10:30 pm ET on ESPN]

Missouri’s offenses have been known for putting up big numbers under the likes of Blaine Gabbert and Chase Daniel. But new quarterback James Franklin struggled in a week 1 win over Miami (OH), throwing for just 129 yards and one touchdown. The sophomore signal-caller will need a much stronger effort in the desert against an Arizona State defense that forced five sacks and held UC-Davis to less 250 total yards. Both teams are suffering from a multitude of injuries to key players, so this could be a war of attrition.

Ball State at #22 South Florida

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN3]

Coming off their upset of Notre Dame in South Bend, the South Florida Bulls look to keep their momentum going. Even though they got the win, there is certainly room for improvement, since the Bulls’ offense was outgained 508-254 and only managed eight first downs.  Ball State is coming off a 4-8 season, but did knock off Indiana 27-20 in week one.

BYU at #24 Texas

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN2]

BYU needed a late rally last week to get by Ole Miss, 14-13, and will need a stronger effort to knock off Texas in Austin. Although last year’s 5-7 disappointment has taken away some of the Longhorns air of invincibility, winning a road game at Texas is still no small task. Texas’ offense started slowly last week against Rice, but got it rolling to the tune of 506 yards. This is the start of a five-game stretch for Texas that includes two road games, a home game with #9 Oklahoma State and the Red River Rumble vs. #1 Oklahoma.

#25 TCU at Air Force

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on Versus]

The Horned Frogs will look to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Baylor, but this week will pose another challenge. The TCU defense, which gave up over 400 passing yards last week, will now have to adjust to Air Force’s triple option look, which had a nation’s-best 391 rushing yards in the Falcons’ week one win over South Dakota. This game could well be a mirror image of the Baylor loss, with another shootout that goes right down to the wire.

One other game of note this week . . .

Notre Dame at Michigan

[Saturday, Sep. 10 at 8:00 pm ET on ESPN]

Expect things to be crazy for the first-ever night game at Michigan’s Big House. University officials and ticket resellers like StubHub say demand for tickets is at an all-time high. Ann Arbor police have already said they will beef up security and brace for the prospect of more alcohol-related disturbances than usual. Notre Dame will be breaking in a new starting QB, sophomore Tommy Rees, after Irish coach Brian Kelly benched starter Dayne Crist at halftime of Notre Dame’s loss to South Florida last week. This has all the makings of another great game in this classic rivalry.

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